2002 Dover AFB Open House & Airshow
May 25-26, 2002
Report written on May 27, 2002.
Dover AFB, home of the 436th Air Mobility Wing and 36 C-5A/B Galaxy aircraft, opens their doors to the public once every couple of years for an Open House and Airshow. This year's headlining acts included the Air Force's Thunderbirds, who are making their first visit back to Dover since 1994, and the Golden Knights, who last performed here back in 1999 with the Blue Angels. The weather seemed to not want to cooperate during the morning and very early afternoon, but by 1:00 PM, the skies looked great for a full airshow.
As with any military base, security was tight. Parking was located on a huge field (it's large enough to launch model rockets from there!) across from one of the gates and the show runway. This field was located off Route 9. Shuttle buses were provided for anyone that was parked in the way back part of the field. I, luckily, got front row parking. But even with that, the walk to the flight line was nearly a half-mile. Military police and CAPs dressed in fatigues told everyone while they were getting out of their cars what they can bring in and what they can't bring in. I found that to be very useful. I had two cameras on me... the camcorder and an old Pentax with a telephoto lens. All that was in my camera bag, which I was not allowed to bring in. I brought in the camcorder and went through security. My pockets were emptied and I was clear.
As you walked into the show area, the entire large aircraft static area belonged to the Air Mobility Command Museum. They had their C-141A, C-141B, C-123, C-133, C-119, C-54M, C-131, F-101, F-106, T-33, Caribou, and KC-97L all jumbled up in one static area. In the same area, near some performers' aircraft were another Kiowa, Huey, and a Cobra that belonged to the museum. In that same area was a Dover C-5B Galaxy (85-0005) and a Fairchild AFB KC-135T Stratotanker (60-0336). Another static ramp had B-25J Mitchell Panchito, UH-1 Huey, OH-58A Kiowa, T-44, a South Carolina ANG F-16, two New Jersey ANG F-16s, a Harvard, SNJ, P-51D Mustang Glamorous Glen, two T-37 Tweets from Columbus AFB, a T-1A Jayhawk from Columbus AFB, TCA1942 glider, Cessna 172, Valiant, L-5, two A-10s from Willow Grove, an A-10 from the Maryland ANG, F/A-18C Hornet from VFA-97 in NAS Lemoore, T-38 Talon from Moody AFB, and a C-21A Learjet from Andrews AFB. A restricted static display also had another Dover C-5B Galaxy, an Altus AFB KC-135R Stratotanker, and a Delaware ANG C-130.
The museum was also opened up for free tours. Being my first trip to Dover AFB and the AMC Museum, I was impressed. The place is really nice! With the performers' aircraft included three T-34s, Roger's J3 Cub, Kevin Russo's SNJ, the Golden Knights' C-31, and the two F-117s. Seeing both Nighthawks parked next to each other is a sight to behold. About a half-mile from show left was where the F-14 and F-15 teams kept their aircraft, along with Snort's F-86, Fowler Carey's T-33, and the Thunderbirds. Twelve C-5s were parked in that same area, with four parked in various locations parallel to the show runway, which happened to be the 12,900 foot runway.
Sunday's opening ceremonies included a large gathering at the museum area, dedicating the C-133 and to the war veterans that appeared there. Also appearing was Senator Joseph Biden (D, DE). A Dover-based C-5 Galaxy (86-0023) departed with what looked like less than 3,000 feet of runway! Just seeing a gigantic plane take off in such a short amount of runway is nothing but impressive... and very loud too! Within 30 seconds of taking off, he disappeared into the clouds. The Harvard and L-5 departed and did some separate flybys, similar to a trainer or warbird review. Both aircraft landed after two passes each. The C-5 returned to perform a dirty pass with the engines revving up to almost full power. He then came around and landed within 3,000 feet, opened the nose, kneeled, and inserted an M1A1 Abrams tank through the front. The process took a good ten minutes but it was impressive that the C-5 can do this in a rapid amount of time. He then took off and disappeared into the clouds and headed towards an army base in Maryland.
The F-117 departed and headed to do a number of airshows in the east coast that day, one of them being in Schenectady, New York with the Blue Angels. Another C-5B Galaxy departed on a mission. This Galaxy is actually based at Travis AFB, near Fairfield, CA, about 30 miles east of San Francisco. Roger Lehnert did his Flying Farmer routine, which was very much different than at any civillian airshow. Roger did not actually do the spiel with Howdy because Roger and Howdy were a mere ½-mile from each other. It seemed like the crowd really enjoyed the flying farmer performance. Three T-34s, Kevin Russo in his SNJ, the P-51D Mustang, and the B-25J Panchito took part in the warbird and trainer flight. The group I was with have a running thing with one of the T-34 pilots. The lead pilot, Mike Forté, shares his name with someone in our graduating class who is also a Mike Forté. The T-34s and Kevin Russo performed a missing man formation in honor of all those who served in the armed forces and lost their lives in battle. The P-51 performed another pass, and the T-34s broke to land as Kevin Russo was setting up for his solo performance later on in the day. Panchito returned for a single pass demonstrating how the Doolittle Raiders flew their B-25s and dropped their bombs. Again, there was no pyro because May is a prime burning season for the Delaware Valley. He then performed two photo passes and both the P-51 and B-25 landed.
Kevin Russo did his low show, coming down real low (almost reminiscent of Snort) in his SNJ. Russo's low show seemed to have more rolls in it other than his normal high show. It was at this time that the low clouds started to leave and give way to blue skies, allowing him to perform some loops. Dale Snodgrass then took the AT&T F-86 Sabre up for a demonstration. I vote Snort's performance the best of the entire show, as far as civillian lineups are concerned. Snort's routine with the F-86 is among one of the very best in the airshow circuit and I always look forward to it wherever he flies it. The B-2 Spirit came by to perform three photo passes. He did not fly any of these passes in the knife edge as the crew that did Millville did. Plus, he also flew by really quietly on all three passes.
The three T-34s then departed home to beat whatever weather was coming to the base. The F-117 returned to perform three passes demonstrating the aircraft in the low and high speed flight environments. The third pass had him perform a minimum radius turn to set up for a landing. However, that was a low and dirty approach the pilot was showing off. He ended up landing and landed without the use of the drag chute because of the length of the show runway at Dover. Fowler Carey took the Vintage Thunderbird T-33 up for a spin. Fowler only performs passes with the T-33 and the only interesting thing he does with it is a Cuban 8 and rolls the aircraft. The Dover C-5B Galaxy (86-0023) that departed earlier returned from Maryland and put on a very nice normal landing display for the crowd before the real airshow noise came.
Capt. Lendy "Alamo" Renegar with the F-15 Eagle West Coast Demo Team took the F-15 up for an incredible demonstration. The main thing that was a turn-off for the F-15 demo was that when he got up right where the announcer's stand was, he was already in the air. The show runway is too long! However, Alamo came by real clean and low before pitching up to start the demonstration. The F-15 East and West demos are virtually identical to one another but the West team seems to fly much tighter to the crowd and added one additional high speed photo pass from the left (which I did not get on video because I changed tapes). Snort took off in the F-86 and performed a high speed pass to play catch-up with Renegar in the Eagle. Renegar flew by in a high-speed pass just after Snort did. Snort then joined up with Lendy to perform the Heritage Flight - a crowd favorite at Dover this year! They performed four passes from the four different directions and broke to land. Snort flew by in a high speed pass and barrel roll followed by Renegar with the F-15 in a flat pass, aileron roll and break to landing. The Golden Knights' C-31 took off and circled Dover for about eight minutes, dropping streamers and circling.
The F-14 demo was up next. In my opinion, this was the demo that stole the show - even from the Thunderbirds! Howdy McCann did a great job announcing for the F-14 Demo Team and just seeing a full demonstration of the Tomcat was something to behold. The last Tomcat demo I saw unfortunately ended in tragedy. He performed two high-speed passes; both with a giant cloud of vapor covering the entire back portion of the plane! These were definitely crowd favorites! It's too bad these aircraft won't be around for much longer. The last Tomcat class will be graduating in 2004 and the fleet might be retired around 2010. When the Tomcat landed, everyone around us went wild.
Roger Lehnert, trying to steal the show from the F-14, went to attempt the Cartop Landing. He almost had it on the first attempt by waved off. Roger made the second attempt look very easy, as he was able to do it successfully. There is always a huge amount of applause and cheering when he does get it on top of the Teenie Weenie Airport. He flew off and landed successfully with another cartop attempt a success. The Gold Team of the Golden Knights took the airspace next. The show was already running about ten minutes late as the Knights performed an incredible display, jumping at 8,000 feet instead of 12,500 feet to speed up the show. The Golden Knights are always a pleasure to watch and they always put on a great show, no matter if it's the Black Team or the Gold Team you refer to.
Now it was time for the Thunderbirds to begin their performance. Since they were parked about a half-mile to show left, there was no way anybody in the crowd to see their ground demonstration. All six Thunderbirds lined up on the runway and sat there for a good twenty minutes, waiting for a Cessna 172 to clear the airspace needed for the Thunderbirds. The regular announcer for the Thunderbirds didn't show up because of personal commitments. The flight surgeon took over for the job this weekend. He did a great job announcing and I commend him for that. The skies had cleared up enough for the Thunderbirds to fly the high show; something that would not have happened had those clouds from the morning stayed there. Seeing the actual takeoff performances was another treat for me, as I have seen more Thunderbird performances at McGuire than at any other location. At McGuire, the show runway is off to the left and the endpoint is a mile from show left (at show center) and a mile away from show center. The Thunderbirds looked even better this time around and you couldn't have asked for a more perfect airshow... other than the weather or the terror threat levels we are at today.
The real masters behind the show this year was David Schultz Airshows and they did a great job coordinating the show and bringing these great acts and static displays to Dover AFB this year, during our fight in the war on terrorism.
Announcer: Howdy McCann
I'm working during the Thunderbirds' demonstration. Dan Gill/USAF Photo, Dover AFB, DE May 26, 2002.